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US Embassy Attacked in Yemen

Yemeni security forces repelled a complex attack on the US embassy in the capital of Sana’a. More than sixteen were killed after terrorists detonated multiple bombs then launched a ground attack in an attempt to breach the compound.

The attack begun after several bombs were detonated just outside the embassy. The terrorists then ambushed the first responders by using pre-positioned snipers. The terrorists were wearing uniforms of Yemeni security forces and driving what appeared to be police cars, which enabled them to get close to the heavily fortified compound.

A sustained firefight then ensued between the terrorists and the embassy guards. The exchange of fire included machine guns, RPGs and hand grenades according to one report. Six attackers were killed as well as a dozen Yemeni security forces. No US causalities were reported. The Yemeni embassy reported that one of the attackers was wearing a suicide vest.

The US withdrew non-essential personnel in March due to terror threats and only recently decided to reverse that decision.

A group calling itself Yemeni Islamic Jihad took credit for today’s attack. The group is also known as the Al-Tawheed battalions and last month claimed responsbility for a July 25 suicide car bombing which at a police station in Hadramout killed one policeman and injured 18. The police station had been previously bombed on April 22 with no injuries.

Yemeni Islamic Jihad issued a statement last Tuesday threatening more attacks unless the Yemeni government met its demands for the release of several members from jail.

“We, the organization of Islamic Jihad in Yemen declare our responsibility for the suicide attack on the American embassy in Sanaa,” the statement read.

“We will carry out the rest of the series of attacks on the other embassies that were declared previously, until our demands are met by the Yemeni government.”

The former leader of Yemeni Islamic Jihad, Hamza al Quaity issued an audio statement August 5 threatening future attacks if al Qaeda prisoners were not released from jail. Yemeni press at the time reported the failure of negotiations between al Quaity and the head of the Political Security Organization, Ghalib al Qamish, who frequently negotiates truce agreements on behalf of the Yemeni government. Al Quaity said in his August statement, “As for you, oh [Ariel] Sharon of Yemen, [Political Security director] Ghalib Ba Gumesh, you’ll see how our colleagues will be freed from your prisons, Allah willing.”

Authorities rounded up over fifty suspected militants including Aden Abyan Islamic Army leader Khalid Abdul Nabi and Saudi Muhammad bin Nayif al Qahtani. After the arrests, Yemen announced that it had thwarted an attack in Saudi Arabia targeting oil industries.

The relationship between Yemeni Islamic Jihad group and Al-Qaeda in Yemen is unclear. The latter is headed by two of the 23 al-Qaeda terrorists who escaped prison in 2006, Qasim Al Raymi and Nasser Al Wahayshi. Al-Quaiti, the third remaining escapee, was killed in August . All three were named by the Yemeni government as participants in a 2007 suicide bombing in Maib. The rest of the escapees are either dead or have been granted a conditional pardon after surrendering. Jamal al Badawi who facilitated the attack on the USS Cole is among the escapees who was granted loose house arrest, a development that strained US-Yemeni relations. A third group calling itself Yemen Soldiers Brigade has taken credit for a spate of attacks on oil pipelines and security installations which caused little damage and few injuries.

Yemeni terror groups have launched several attacks on Western embassies this year. Early in 2008, mortar attacks were launched in Sana’a against western targets including the US embassy, Italian embassy and a western housing complex. The mortars missed their targets in each case. The Yemen Soldiers Brigade took credit for the attacks.

Prior suicide car bombings include coordinated attacks in September 2006 on oil facilities in Marib and Hadramout, and an attack on tourists in Marib in July 2007 which killed eight elderly Spanish tourists.

-Jane, Long War Journal

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